By Mahesh Nayak | Photo: Satish Ira
Mangaluru, April 25, 2015: Sometime in ’86 or ’87 when I was doing my graduation a poster on our college notice board announced a talk that evening on ‘film appreciation’. I attended the programme and was surprised to observe that the hall was packed. There was no place to sit and I had to peek over others’ heads to see what was going on. Shortly before the much awaited talk was to commence, the guest speaker was introduced to us. That was when I first heard the name ‘Manohar Prasad’, one which would resonate in our lives for years to come. I still remember his booming voice, the way he stood at the rostrum to address us and the rapt attention with which we all listened to him.
Subsequently, once I got to know his name, I began to notice his byline in Udayavani, our daily paper. Newspapers normally carry the reporter’s name only if the story is an exclusive. Manohar Prasad’s name would accompany articles with amazing regularity. I particularly remember an expose regarding a well known educational institution. It was a hard hitting report – a rare phenomenon for the paper – and it must have ruffled quite a few feathers. Teaming up with ace photographers like Yajna or his best friend Annu, he broke new ground to produce a continuous series of highly readable articles which amazed and engaged the readers. When a helicopter crashed in the wilderness of the Western Ghats, Manohar Prasad along with Yajna joined the search party trekking in the dense jungle, fog and rain notwithstanding. The front page report that followed, with the impressive large black and white photo of the wreckage, is still etched in my mind. Udayavani was a young paper then and it was rapidly taking centre stage in the coastal media space. The legend of Manohar Prasad both helped and grew with it. His spirit was adventurous, and the product a treat, always presented with style and flair.
The advent of cable TV in the early ‘90s opened a new domain for him. In its early days cable TV was run by a few independent operators who provided service to one locality each, comprising a few hundred connections. The operator directly downlinked the satellite signals with the help of a large dish antenna, which would be the landmark of its particular street. There was no centralized network like now. Some 200-300 such operators were scattered across the town and district. Even in the midst of such muddle, some enterprising guys thought up of a scheme by which weekly news capsules could be produced. Video footage would be compiled from various sources and edited in a studio, then quickly recopied on to VHS tape. The VHS cassettes would in turn be distributed to the cable operators for playing in their particular turf. Thus was born the local TV media. (NammaTV too is an offshoot of one such experiment. Theirs was a weekly interactive show called ‘Telehousie’).
In this emerging media, Manohar Prasad became the natural choice for anchoring the news programmes. He had excellent screen presence, his presentation was professional and his reputation as a newsman lent weight of personality to the news capsule. To his credit he effortlessly adapted to the new medium and assumed as big a stature in it as in print journalism. He was soon seen hosting a wide variety of programmes with different themes and styles of presentation. The continuous and never-ending string of programmes that he hosted is a tribute to his resourcefulness. He can probably be credited with single handedly sustaining the local TV industry in its fledgling days.
Vibrant personality, Colourful career: Manohar Prasad with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mother Teresa and Sachin Tendulkar
With this audio-visual exposure also followed Manohar Prasad’s emergence as Mangalore’s most sought after programme compere and master of ceremonies. At once he could be seen everywhere. The way he keeps the audience spell bound, the total mastery with which he quotes facts, figures and human interest trivia to connect with the masses, the complete familiarity with which he introduces the guests and lifts the programme to a high is mind blowing. That he manages to juggle his time and energy between all these varied pursuits with ease is nothing short of miraculous.
Journalists are of many types. For some it is just as another job. Some are ideologically driven. Yet others work with an activist mindset. ‘MP’ belongs to none of these. He comes to the table with only the basic journalistic prerequisites like boundless curiosity, an inquisitive, yet critical mind and tremendous capacity for absorbing information. He has insight into human nature and has his fingers on the pulse of the reader. Devoid of any ideological baggage, he relates easily to the reality and hence has no difficulty in connecting with people on a wider canvas. He has combined his natural interest in various subjects with giving what people want and touched the psyche of the readers of this region at a deeper level. He has travelled extensively and knows every village, town and temple of this region. For many years now, he has been running a column called ‘Namma Mangaluru’, which is a regular update on the local history of the region. It will one day prove to be an invaluable chronicle for researchers. He is pragmatic, sees the point quickly and is flexible enough to adjust to the changing times. This explains his continuing popularity for over three decades across diverse media, which is a formidable achievement indeed. On a personal level he is very approachable, witty and jovial. He has a ready joke up his sleeve and you will never feel bored in his company.
Apart from being such a great entertainer, Manohar Prasad is also a gifted poet and he’s acted in a movie. He has phenomenal memory and never seems to forget names, faces, facts or figures. He can memorise and recite entire sentences backward too. He is well read and knowledgeable. I have seen him skim a page in English for a few minutes and then, in a single spurt, produce a perfect translation of the contents without missing a word or nuance. Indeed excellence is second nature. There are probably many more attributes to him which we are yet to see. You never know when or how he will surprise you.
There are some who say he is the right person in the wrong place, that greater glory awaits him in the bigger cities. I find such speculation ridiculous. Those who make such assertions do not know how talent works. True, he has the caliber, the stature, the intellectual depth and limitless cognitive resources to make his mark on the big stage. His talent is beyond doubt. But then we forget that it is not just ability, but also that ‘special something’ which makes one tick. One’s best comes out only when one is happy at the job. We know of too many extraordinary talents who got lost to ill conceived ambition. It is also not as though he would not have received lucrative offers from the big players.
I think Manohar Prasad is here because he has chosen to be here. And what keeps him here is love and loyalty – he loves his roots, he adores Mangalore and he has also an innate loyalty to his organization, which has given him a platform he’s happy with.
Yes, Manohar Prasad is our precious gem. He is our man and he belongs here. Let us be thankful for it and learn to cherish him. He is Namma Manohar.